Five friends from Short Hills, New Jersey, Hannah Klein, Mike Goldberg, Zoe Ades, Nicole Horne and Ilyse Reisman teamed up for a group Mitzvah Project called, Sandwiches For Shabbat.
We spoke with this group of creative kids to learn more.
MM: How did you get the ideas for this Mitzvah Project?
SFS: Our Mitzvah Project began with a conversation that Hannah’s mom had with one of the board members at the non-profit organization where she works, the Good People Fund. His name is Peter Freimark and he has organized his Temple’s ongoing Friday night Peanut Butter and Judaism (PB&J) project. Sandwiches are made by congregants after the Oneg and distributed to homeless people and shelters.
MM: Who helped you make this idea your own?
SFS: When Hannah’s mom told her about this idea, she was inspired but wondered how she would adapt this for her own Mitzvah Project. Peter lives in the Cleveland area and she lives in Short Hills, New Jersey. At her mom’s suggestion, she set up a meeting with Naomi Eisenberger, Executive Director of the Good People Fund. She meets regularly with B’nai Mitzvah students to help them design meaningful projects. She always starts by asking a poignant question. “What makes you angry in this world?” When she asked Hannah, her answer was clear: the fact that so many people are hungry. Her conversation with Naomi inspired her to do something about this injustice. She helped focus her ideas and adapt Peter’s project to something that would work for her project. From Peter’s initial idea, to her meeting with Naomi, Hannah came up the idea of “Sandwiches for Shabbat.”
MM: When did the other four friends become involved?
SFS: This was going to be big so Hannah decided to recruit several other Mitzvah students to join her efforts. Their first step was to make sure that the clergy and staff of their temple, Congregation B’nai Jeshurun, were on board with them using their space and congregants to execute their Mitzvah Project. Thankfully the rabbis and staff loved the idea and were fully behind it. Their next step was to connect with Bridges Outreach, an organization based in Summit, New Jersey, to see if they could help on the delivery end, making sure their bags went from the Oneg at the temple directly into the hands of the homeless population in their backyard — Newark, Irvington, New York City and even Summit. They too welcomed the idea of their project and any brown bag lunches they could commit to making.
MM: How did you raise funds to get supplies for the brown bag lunches?
SFS: To raise funds to purchase the supplies for the brown bag lunches for each Oneg, we launched our project with a huge bake sale after one of the first Sunday school sessions in September. We all joined forces to make the most incredible sweet table imaginable and rather than asking for a specific amount of money, we got creative!
Their signs read, “Give what you can, take what you want.” They hoped this would encourage generous donations
MM: How were the donations?
SFS: The donations came pouring in when we explained the cause and before we knew it we raised $1100 (we even took the extras and snuck into the stands of our local High School football game to sell the remainder). Some of our grandparents matched our earnings up to $200 so we ended up with a nearly $1500 budget. We then designed an attractive flyer and announced the Friday night dates for our event. Our budget supported one Friday night per month starting in October.
MM: How did you prepare for each event?
SFS: For each event we followed the guidelines that Bridges Outreach requires by purchasing supplies for 100 brown bag lunches. Costco became our friend and we even asked local restaurants for some donations. Livingston Bagel always came forth with the mustard packets and Shop Rite always honored a very low price for the turkey.
On each Friday we would announce at the end of the service how great it would be if people could stop by the Oneg not only for a bite to eat but to help feed the many people nearby who are homeless and hungry. We enlisted our fellow congregants to help us in our efforts and in the process also built community. Our assembly line consisted of bread and turkey to make the sandwiches, and a napkin, water bottle, fruit, salty snack (chip or popcorn), sweet snack (cookie) and mustard or mayonnaise pack to fill the bag. It was amazing how working together we could produce 100 brown-bag lunches in a very short amount of time. Once the bags were made we always did a quality control check to make sure all the items made their way to the bags. The final step was transporting the bags to the Bridges Outreach facility for delivery.
MM: Does your project have a start and end date, if so, what are they?
SFS: Our project spanned the entire year of our B’nai Mitzvahs.
MM: Why did you decide to take on this particular project?
SFS: We decided to take this on because so many people living not so far from us are hungry and without shelter. We wanted to do our share in fixing this problem.
MM: What does this Mitzvah Project mean for all of you?
SFS: It is an amazing feeling to know that we helped so many people. These lunches were delivered to people that cannot afford food or a home so we made a huge impact on their lives by feeding them.
MM: If there is another group of kids reading this story, what should they know about this Mitzvah Project?
SFS: This project is easily adaptable to other communities as well. Our group reunited for our temple’s Mitzvah Day this past March where Sandwiches for Shabbat hosted another assembly line (on a Sunday rather than Shabbat). We made 200 brown bag lunches and had at least 50 volunteers who donated supplies and helped make the lunches. It was another amazing community effort. Additionally, we talked about our group working with Mitzvah families and local catering establishments to commit to finding homeless shelters or other places to donate leftovers. Though we never tackled this piece of the project it certainly is not too late. As we are all entering high school, maybe we can all come together for Phase II.
MM: Any last thoughts?
SFS: Finally, for anyone thinking of starting a Sandwiches for Shabbat at your temple, it truly is a worthwhile experience. One area where we could have improved is soliciting donations from local businesses. We always relied on Livingston Bagel to donate the mustard/mayonnaise packets. And, Shop Rite gave us a very low price on the turkey. I believe we could have received even more donations if our efforts had been more focused on this goal.
We thank Hannah Klein, Mike Goldberg, Zoe Ades, Nicole Horne and Ilyse Reisman for sharing this great project with our readers and we hope it inspires other communities to do something similar.